I accepted the Tualatin job on Friday night. I didn’t really want to but I promised to follow Paul’s decision. He’s calmer than I am; he’s less extreme. I decided to trust him and made the call. We were on the road to Pine Mountain Observatory to watch the stars and camp with friends. I told him not to tell anyone — perhaps to observe the delicious irony of discussing matters with friends when the decision had been made. And maybe … maybe I was being a bit manipulative to see if Paul would change his mind. I feel guilty to say that, but since I’m being honest, I might as well go all the way.

We saw the various nebulae and Jupiter and its moons. We ate dinner and I filled my friends in on additional details of the job. They mostly listened that night to the details of the jobs because they weren’t able to read the blog yet. I think they were waiting for us to say what we were going to do. But Paul and I kept our silence. That night, we slept. It was very cold and I whimpered about it. The next day, we hiked to a promontory and scanned the Cascades: Bachelor, Broken Top, South Sister, Middle Sister, North Sister, Three-fingered Jack beside Black Butte, Mt. Washington and Mt. Jefferson. The colors are vivid and the wind and the sun both so strong that I found myself putting on and taking off my sweater. We looked like a polygamous Mormon family: Paul, myself, Robin, and Heather, seven girls and Nikolai. The kids climbed trees and smelled flowers. We identified plants and birds. But we didn’t talk a lot. The elephant in the room was hiking the mountain trail beside us and we all were trying not to notice it. The kids didn’t care, though. They played unconcernedly and innocently, unaware of the decisions pressing on their parents. We returned, packed up, and drove away in succession. On the way out, we saw two cougars sprint up the hill and our hearts beat quickly at the thought of all the times we let the kids get out of our sight. We adults bunched together to chat and the kids danced and scampered on the peripheral. It was the first time I had seen a cougar in the wild. It’s tail hung heavy like a club and its size was terrifying. It could easily carry a child away and bound away in leaps too powerful and quick for me. That cougar could have carried me high up into a tree. I pictured my lifeless legs dangling from high up in a Ponderosa and I shivered. Sometimes a scare can have the precise effect of putting things into perspective. But it was lost on me. I turned inward to the matters at hand..

On the way home, the reality of what we had signed up for hit me, I assailed Paul with all the impossibilities of the plan. I ventured into the irrational and when I got out to drive the Volvo home, I cried the whole way with the sadness of it. I grieved the situation. Then, I took a deep breath, realized that I had been unfair to Paul, and promised I would not attack the decision again. I would throw my full weight into the plan and make it as positive an experience as possible. Who knows what could happen? I looked forward to being with my sister, to being somewhere knew, and I felt grateful that it would be hard to leave — because that meant we had formed relationships that were authentic and deep. The pain meant that there was a lot of love in my heart for my home, my family, my friends, my Central Oregon — with its sunny, cold-clear days, its clear lines and brilliant colors, the smell of sage and juniper, and the easy-going people.

It was time for a new beginning.

By the time we returned to our house for dinner, my friends couldn’t handle it any longer and they argued earnestly for us to stay. I felt they had valid points but as I pointed out on the last post, there’s valid points for all opportunities. Paul was surrounded by his sister, my two best friends, and me. They were each giving their arguments. He’s a saint. He could have squelched them all by telling them that I was going to leave for Camas the next day, but he patiently heard them all out, listening politely. Eventually though, he drank too much wine until he got a little sick and went to bed.

I said the goodbyes to my friends and tucked the girls into bed. Then, I went to blog. My dad called about 10:30 p.m. to give me the final chance to take the trip to Italy. I did my duty. I told him to cancel the date.  After checking my messages, I realized my future principal had called that evening saying that he wanted me to come in on Monday.

As I went to bed at 2:30 a.m., I realized that I would have to drive to my sister’s the next day and I had to pack for four days. Paul woke up as I climbed in and asked me what I’d been doing. “Blogging,” I replied. He tossed and turned for a couple of minutes and then got up, walked downstairs, and got his phone so he could read it.

I smiled at the compliment. Anyone who knows Paul knows that sleep is a necessity. He read it aloud. I like hearing my writing read by someone else. It helps me improve. Afterwards, he pulled me into our spooning position. It was awhile before either of us fell asleep. I wonder what he feels. I know that I have heartburn all the time and my stomach is in knots. He always seems to handle things so calmly — but sometimes I find him sleeping more than usual. I think that’s how he deals with stress.

I’m going to go pack. I’m getting teary-eyed right now, but it’s all gonna be okay. It’s all gonna work out. I’m sure it’s going to all work out for the best.

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